Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days of Fearless: Imagine the Impossibe

For today's post, I wanted to share with you a talk that I gave this past summer at the church I was interning with. There were several Sundays where each of the interns took turns sharing a message, and this was my first one. Since I don't have a video of that one, I thought I'd just post what I'd written in preparation. :)
The Bible is full of stories that seem more than slightly impossible, improbable, or over the top. Let’s briefly review for a minute.
  • Noah spent 120 years building an ark in preparation for a great flood that God had warned him of. Never mind the fact that it had never “rained” and the people had no idea what “rain” or a “flood” was. People must have thought he was crazy. 
  • God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars- even though Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and they were really old. After God blessed them with a son in their old age, Abraham was told to kill his only son…the son whom God had promised to make nations from. 
  • God led Moses, a man who had a stuttering problem, to stand up to Pharaoh and release the Israelites from captivity. On their way to the Promised Land, God instructed Moses to place his staff in the water to part the Red Sea so that the people could cross. 
  • Joshua led the Israelites to victory over the city of Jericho…by marching around the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day with seven priests blowing trumpets made of rams’ horns. Then, the walls of the city fell down. Later, Joshua prayed to the Lord for the sun to stand still and the moon to stay in place while they fought the Amorites. The Lord answered his prayer and the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the Israelites had defeated their enemies. 
  • Jesus told his disciples to pass out five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people. Later, he told Peter to walk on water through a storm. Oh- and don’t forget the Easter story. After Jesus was crucified on the cross, he rose from the dead three days later. Who does that? 
I think a lot of times we don’t think that things like this happen anymore. Sometimes, we try to explain away these things, because we don’t understand them. They don’t fit into our idea of how the world is supposed to work. Stories about “impossible” things make us uneasy. We want to think that God can still do these kinds of things today, but it’s hard to imagine or believe. It doesn’t make sense that a man could (or would) come to Earth and perform miracles like healing the sick, turning water into wine, or even raising the dead to life. It does not make sense to think that a man could die on a cross and be resurrected three days later. It all comes down to a matter of faith. We read these stories and think that they are great stories- but we leave them at that. Deep down inside, we want to believe that these kinds of things are still possible, but we really don’t believe that they could. We think that maybe Moses, Abraham, and Noah have something that we don’t- that they were “special” in some sort of way. But, this really isn’t true. God is the same yesterday, today, and always. We are all created in his image. That means that all of these “impossible” things could happen for us, too!
Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I think deep down inside, we all want big things from God. We’d love to see miracles happen, but we just don’t think that they still do. We think that it’s strange when God asks us to take a leap of faith. We think it’s strange when God asks us to build an ark, feed five thousand, or march around a building for seven days. Francis Chan says in his book “Crazy Love” that 
God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through. We have to believe it enough that it changes how we live.
This book- the Bible, the Word of God has to have an impact on the way you live your life. Living the Word means living your life in a way that shows that you believe that this book is the true word of God. It means believing and trusting that God did all of those things that were written down, and that he can still do amazing things today! We serve a God who used Moses, a murderer, to part the Red Sea. We serve a God who let Peter, who would deny him three times, walk on water. We serve a God that looks at us in all of our weakness and says, “I can use YOU, yes even you, to do the impossible”.

In 2 Corinthians 6: 11-13, Paul wrote,
 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
God did not intend for you to be small. Do not belittle yourselves. He didn’t intend on you to live your life in a safe little box with picture perfect people doing small things that have little to no impact on the world. He wants you to dream big- after all, he is a great, big, powerful God! He dares you to “live openly and expansively”. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” God has a great, big, ginormous plan for each and every one of our lives. This plan is so much bigger than anything you could ever imagine. Don’t think that just because you are young that you have an excuse either. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

In this book, He has given us a promise of great things to come, which can help us press on in times of hardship. Even when life looks hopeless and things seem impossible, we still have hope. Don’t give up at this part of the story. Keep turning the pages. Think about it. 
  • If Noah hadn’t done what God had commanded and built the ark- even though he had no idea what this flood/rain thing was- things would have turned out differently. 
  • If Abraham had said, “Hey God, I’m not so sure about this whole sacrificing Isaac thing. I know you’re God and all, but don’t you realize that I’m over 100 years old and you promised to make my name great and my descendants as numerous as the stars” and not sacrificed his son and trusted God, He probably wouldn’t be known as a Patriarch of the Christian faith. 
  • If Moses hadn’t trusted God enough to part the Red Sea, the Israelites would have died or been kept in captivity until God sent someone else. 
  • If Joshua and the Israelites hadn’t trusted that God could take down a city’s walls simply by marching around it, they wouldn’t have conquered Jericho. 
Faith- living like the Word that God has given us is true, like the promises God has made us will be fulfilled- makes impossible circumstances possible. We serve a God who whispers to us in our weakness “With me, you can do the impossible”. In our weakness, He is made stronger. We may feel powerless, like the world has turned against us and that our circumstances are too big, too hard, or too impossible to handle. But, when we trust God completely, when the Word of God changes the way we live…that is when these circumstances become “not too big”, “not too hard”, and we realize that all things are possible through Christ (Philippians 4:13).
The other day, I was reading a book called “One Thousand Gifts”, and it really made me think about perspective. Perspective is how we see the world. Ann writes that "that which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining." That hit me like a ton of bricks. In the midst of dark times when we think that God cannot possibly be there, that God cannot possibly do anything good, and that our situation is completely impossible, we need to remember that the light never stops shining. God is still there. God is still at work. God is still standing beside us, holding our little hand. Later, the author writes,
I feel Him hold me- a flailing child tired in Father's arms. And I can hear Him sooth soft, "Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on my Mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world- because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?
Our perspective is warped. We fail to look at life through the lens of God's Word. Our view is warped, because we cannot see outside our tiny little worldview. Julian of Norwich writes,
See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom, and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?
Reflect on this today. Even in the midst of the darkness, when sin and death seem to overwhelm you...don't give up. Look at life through the lens of God and readjust your perspective. Cling to the promise found in John 16:33b, where Jesus tells you, his precious child, that "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world." Take heart. Don't stop fighting. Don't give up. Embrace hope. Trust that God can turn your bad situation into something good. He can make your impossible possible. His story isn't finished yet! Think about the best books and stories that you have ever read. Remember that this is just one chapter, and everyone knows that a "conflict" has to before a "happily ever after" to make a good fairytale. Live with faith and believe that God exists and is still working hard in the world today. Expect great, big things. Dream big dreams. Pray big prayers. Believe that the impossible can become possible. Trust in God’s ways and believe in His greater, higher plan. It’s worth it.

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